May 2006

John Legend - Get Lifted
Getting Out Our Dreams/Sony Urban Music/Columbia 76181
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD
Released: 2005

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****

John Legend’s Get Lifted walked away with three Grammies this year and, for once, the Recording Academy seems to have chosen well. Legend’s talent is so forceful and unique that I feel confident in predicting he’ll escape the Best New Artist Grammy curse. Get Lifted looks at love -- how we long for it and how we do stupid things to risk losing it. Legend (born John Stephens) sings with genuine passion, and he knows how to write a good hook. He’s the kind of singer that gives you hope for the future of soul music.

Kanye West plays an important role in Legend’s success. West is the executive producer of Get Lifted and the disc is on his label, Getting Out Our Dreams (G.O.O.D.). Put aside any feelings you have about West or hip-hop. The disc has a good vibe. Sampling and drum programming mark this as a very modern soul disc and the bass and kick drum thump hard. The 5.1 mix on the SACD layer of this hybrid disc moves the background vocals and other elements behind you and takes some of the emphasis off the bottom end, but it’s still pretty boomy. Audiophiles may find that they have to pull the bass down to enjoy some of the details in the song arrangements, or adjust their ears.

It is worth the effort. The playing throughout the disc, including Legend’s on piano, is very solid, and the songs are tuneful and smartly presented. The 5.1 mix is enjoyably spacious, but I found the two-channel mixes, both CD and SACD, to be more focused and energetic, with the SACD just a bit livelier.